One Quick Afterthought on the Iras

There was a very amusing discussion at one point in last night's festivities (see posting below) when we began to try to name the oldest director ever to make a feature film. Right now the evidence is strong for Manoel de Oliveira, whose Belle Toujours graced last year's New York Film Festival. Oliveira was born in 1908 and will celebrate his 99th birthday on December 11 of this yaer. He has three films in various stages of production right now. I think he is clearly the winner and, delightfully, is one of the world's great directors, still seemingly at the peak of his considerable powers. I have no idea what his secret is, but I suspect that his slow start -- one film in 1942, then nothing until 1963 -- may have something to do with it; he's just been saving up all the stuff he needed to say.

Eric Rohmer, who will be 87 on April 4, is another great cineaste who is hanging on for dear life. Although he announced that Triple Agent would be his last film, he has a new one in production.

(I know someone is going to jump up and down shouting, "What about Leni Riefenstahl?" My answer to that is in two parts. First, "Underwater Impressions," her 2002 film, released when whe was 100, is only 45 minutes long and consists largely of footage she shot many years earlier. Second, and I know this is going to piss off a lot of people, I have never considered Riefenstahl a great filmmaker. There are great sequences in Olympia, but the film is much, much too long. Triumph of the Will is not merely a loathesome exercise in pornaganda; it is also one of the damn dullest "great" films I have ever sat through. What is most shocking about it is that, given virtually unlimited resources, at several points in the film Riefenstahl uses footage that was out of focus. I am reviewing the two new biographies for Jewish Week, so I will refrain from saying more since I don't want to use up my best lines.)

Of course the problem for octogenarian filmmakers is getting insurance. It's not an accident that on each of the films Michelangelo Antonioni has made since his stroke another, younger director (or two, in the case of Eros) has been involved. Antonioni will be 95 on September 29 and I suspect we have seen the last of his directorial work, although I would be delighted to be wrong.

At any rate, I'm curious to see if any readers can supply other 80+ aged filmmakers.


Steve Elworth said…
Obvoiusly, Manoel de Oliveira is the great example infilm history of an active and great director at his peak in his eighties and nineties. His most recent feature, Belle toujours is his magnificent tribute to a slightly older master, Luis Bunuel, who filmed Belle du Jour at the young age of 66. There are other active filmmakers in their nineties. Kaneto Shindo born in 1912, the same year as the magnificent Micheloangelo Antonioni made for what is now his final film in 2003. The slightly younger Kon Ichikawa, born in 1915 released his most recent feature late last year. It is true that the late work of Shindo and Ichikawa has not been shown here, but here are two more filmmakers in their nineties. Another filmmaker of advanced age who is still active without his films being shown here is the Hungarian virtuoso of the long take, Miklos Jansco. Alain Resnais, also in his early eighties is still active and his most recent film was one of the highlights of last year's NYFF and should be released here soon. Manoel de Oliveira, almost a year before his 99th birthday will soon be the great film maker who has lived the longest. The great, great Robert Bresson died at 98. His final film, L'Argent was finished when he was only 82.
Steve Elworth
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